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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

INVARIANT TWINS
which he applied at Gresham College, London. His trial lecture
was too good for the governing board. However, the successful
Woolwich candidate died the following year and Sylvester was
appointed. Among his not too generous emoluments was the
right of pasturage on the common. As Sylvester kept neither
horse, cow, nor goat, and did not eat grass himself, it is difficult
to see what particular benefit he got out of this inestimable
boon.
Sylvester held the position at Woolwich for sixteen years, till
he was forcibly retired as 'superannuated' in 1870 at the age of
fifty-six. He was still full of vigour but could do nothing against
the hidebound officialdom against him. Much of his great work
was still in the future, but his superiors took it for granted that
a man of his age must be through.
Another aspect of his forced retirement roused all his fighting
instincts. To put the matter plainly, the authorities attempted
to swindle Sylvester out of part of the pension which was legiti-
mately his. Sylvester did not take it lying down. To their
chagrin the would-be gyppers learned that they were not brow-
beating some meek old professor but a man who could give
them a little better than he took. They came through with the
full pension.
While all these disagreeable things were happening in his
material affairs Sylvester had no cause to complain on the
scientific side. Honours frequently came his way, among them
one of those most highly prized by scientific men, foreign corre-
spondent of the French Academy of Sciences. Sylvester was
elected hi 1863 to the vacancy in the section of geometry caused
by the death of Steiner.
After his retirement from Woolwich Sylvester lived in Lon-
don, versifying, reading the classics, playing chess, and enjoy-
ing himself generally, but not doing much mathematics. In
1870 he published his pamphlet, The Laws of Verse, by which
he set great store. Then, in 1876, he suddenly came to mathe-
matical life again at the age of sixty-two. The 'old 'man was
simply inextinguishable.
The Johns Hopkins University had been founded at Balti-
more in 1875 under the brilliant leadership of President Oilman.
433